Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nashville, Day One


There’s a five-piece band on the tiny stage of the Full Moon Saloon on Broadway, meaning that there are more people in the band than there are in the audience. They seem to be playing power country. That’s not an actual genre, but on the ten-hour drive to Nashville I thought about a few things, and one of those things was that every band in the world should have its own unique category, even if it just means juggling around the concepts. Because southern soul gothabilly is a genre waiting to happen. To someone.

The lead singer is the kind of bloke you’d want stepping out of his pick-up truck to help you fix a flat tire when you’ve broken down on a rural road. He’s reassuringly country, with a deep voice and an approachable face. The pedal steel player is the youngest in the band, and leans moodily over his instrument – maybe it hurts to be good on pedal steel and only have four people come to watch (three of whom are clearly connected to the band, making me the only genuine, in-off-the-street punter). He looks like the quiet, surly kid brother a team-mate would bring along to make up the numbers on a Saturday afternoon. Then during the game he starts yelling at his team-mates and the referee, and gets sent off for fist-fighting an opponent.

“Cowboys add class to barroom brawls,” says a sign on the wall. Yet a lot of people in Nashville shun cowboy hats for the turned around baseball cap – that all-pervasive head accessory that doesn’t keep you warm, doesn’t keep you dry, but lends you the special demeanour of a human being whose brains have been shaken out of his ears. Our audience is trebled when several college students walk in donning this unique headwear, adding the sweat shirt with a college name in block capitals (UNIVERSITY OF STUPIDGRIN), baggy jeans, and a perpetually operated cell phone to take pictures of everyone with their arms around everyone else, holding bottles of beer. Yes, they bought bottles, even though Shiner Bock was on tap.

They swell the numbers, but ignore the band. A heavy gal in a top that’s showing me more than I want to know comes round with a bucket for tips, because there’s no cover charge in this joint. “Any requests, put them on the back of a hundred-dollar bill and we’ll see what we can do,” quips the singer. Their CD costs five dollars, but I have two dollar bills, so can decently avoid having to take it home.

On the bar is a flyer for Nashville Star, the televised open audition for the C&W version of American Idol. “One dream. One country. One Nashville Star.” I just have to show up with my travel guitar tomorrow between 10 and 6 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the country and western theme park built on the edge of town. And I’ll need to write a country song in the next 24 hours. “I’m Britpop indie-country, actually,” I’ll explain to the judges. “This song’s about how I quit my job, but because there was no refund on the hotel I’d pre-paid to come to Nashville for the CONCACAF Olympic soccer qualifying tournament, I ended coming anyway to try and become a country star instead.”

That will have them weeping so hard they’ll forget to listen to the song and I’ll make the callback stage on the strength of hotel heartbreak alone. Before long I’ll be packing them in at the Full Moon Saloon and starting a classy brawl with anyone in a baseball cap drinking beer from a bottle.

1 comment:

Any major dude with half a heart said...

“This song’s about how I quit my job, but because there was no refund on the hotel I’d pre-paid to come to Nashville for the CONCACAF Olympic soccer qualifying tournament, I ended coming anyway to try and become a country star instead.”

Ian, there is proverbial coffee all over the metaphorical keyboard, and it's your fault.

Quality!